Magnificent Malificent

On Tuesday, less than a week after filming kicked off in England, the first official image was released from Disney's upcoming fairy tale movie, Malificent. This live-action film delves into the character and motivations of  Malificent, the disgruntled dark fairy, dragon shape-shifter and antagonist from Disney's 1959 animated classic - based of course on the Sleeping Beauty story.

With Angelina Jolie playing the title character, the first official pic is a delicious tease - showing the actress in make-up and related prosthetics (including fake cheekbones) designed by the legendary Rick Baker.

Now with dozens of other live-action releases still to come, fairy tale films are currently sitting somewhere between comic book adaptations and video game movies on the quality scale. Nobody has quite cracked it yet, with the makers of this fantasy sub-genre typically getting so caught up in world creation and CGI-visuals that they forget to deliver a good story and captivating characters. I'm holding thumbs, but Malificent could easily end up being another Snow White and the Huntsman (which I liked but couldn't love). And honestly, do we really need a movie that, according to the Disney press release "reveals the events that hardened [Malificent's] heart and drove her to curse the baby Aurora?" Just let evil be instead of hauling out some cliched back-story and psychologising enigmatic characters into blandness.

For the record, Malificent has been a while coming. Apparently Brad (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible 4) Bird was flirting with the idea for the film back in 2009, before Tim Burton announced in 2010 that he wanted to retell the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of (arguably) Disney's most powerful villain. A year later, Mr "Alice in Wonderland Revamp" was off the project as well, and Disney briefly courted Harry Potter's David Yates before handling helming duties to visual effects and production designer Robert Stromberg - who has 2 Oscars under his belt for Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, but is otherwise a directing rookie. Angelina Jolie was always the first choice for the horned sorceress, but the project seemed so slow to be realised that I was half expecting it to sink, and be lost forever, in the bowels of Hollywood Development Hell.

But nope, Malificent is happening after all, and has managed to round up a pretty impressive cast to flank Jolie. Super 8's Elle Fanning is blonde and beautiful Princess Aurora, while Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville are Thistletwit, Knotgrass and Flittle, the trio of fairies who become Aurora's protectors.

In terms of new character additions to the familiar story, there's Miranda Richardson as a Fairy Queen and Malificent's mean-spirited aunt, Sam Riley as Malificent's right hand man (and sometimes raven), and Kenneth Cranham's power-hungry human king, intent on ruling the fairy realm. Meanwhile, South Africa's own Sharlto (District 9) Copley is Stefan, the king's half-human half-fairy son, Malificent's love interest(!) and/or Aurora's royal father... or something.

All in all, Malificent isn't sounding dissimilar to Wicked, which examined how events in her youth warped a strong-willed and principled young woman into The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West. Let's just hope Angie's Malificent consistently delivers cool, confident badassery and isn't prone to tearful moping in her quieter moments like Charlize's Ravenna.

Anyway, for some additional Malificent pics, you can check out these behind-the-scenes paparazzi snaps. These pics suggest our "heroine" is naturally horned, and brings to mind this Tiefling spellcaster from a Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition handbook.

However things turn out, we've got a long wait for Malificent. The film is currently set for release - in 3D - on 14 March 2014.


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